Successful Housing and the Value of our Furry Friends

Those of us who are pet owners know the importance that our furry friends play in our lives. Not just companionship, pets play an important role in the improvement of our emotional and physical well-being.

Owning a pet is good for you. Pets make us feel better, and when we feel better, we feel motivated and are able to contribute to our own health and well-being and to that of the community as a whole. Heart Foundation Statistics (2008) show that pets help make people happier and healthier, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, mitigating obesity and depression, even delaying ageing. Furthermore, studies have shown that pet owners are less likely to report feeling lonely (Crowley-Robinson, 1996). And that pet owners deal better with stressful situations (Australian Companion Animal Council, 2006).

According to Associate Professor Burnett of Latrobe University Melbourne, pet ownership saves Australia's health system an estimated $2.2 billion a year.

For a person experiencing homelessness, mental illness, and/or social isolation a pet can bring connectedness, positive emotion, and meaning into ones life. Isn’t this what we all need to lead a fulfilling life, and make pathways to better outcomes?

Imagine coming home… to no family and no friends, but there waiting for you with unconditional love is your dog, cat, or whichever pet you decide…great or small. Pets create a space of enjoyment, motivation, and love. Pets become a part of our family, and for some, their pet is their family.  

According to the Australian Companion Animal Council (2006), 91% of pet owners report feeling “very close” to their pets. Thus reinforcing that pets become an integral part of the family unit…whichever unit this may be.

With an increase in high-density living, and “no-pets” policies, how do we as a community bring pets into the lives of people that are most vulnerable?

We need to make it easier for people to own pets…So what needs to happen?

-Education within the community regarding the health benefits of pets, and in particular, adjusting the attitudes of those that discriminate against the homeless population, social housing tenants, and their rights to pet ownership.

-The social housing system could ensure that homes were fenced securely. That studio size/high density units be reviewed with regard to appropriateness of space.

-Hostels and nursing homes could be fitted with kennels and pet-friendly equipment to allow for the therapeutic benefits of pets to be experienced by those most vulnerable in our community.

-Local councils could continue to provide more programs offering drastically discounted de-sexing and micro-chipping.

Footprints in Brisbane is playing a part in making pet ownership more accessible for responsible owners. Footprints initiated an annual event “Pawprints in Brisbane”. This event began in 2011. This was based on the acknowledgement of the importance of pets in the lives of those that are homeless, in social housing, and those experiencing financial disadvantage. This event is held in conjunction with the RSPCA Qld.

A pet brings warmth, when ones life is cold, they bring comfort in times of despair, they provide meaning, and in turn, bring an active purpose to each day.

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